I have a confession to make: the first time I ate a steamed (pork) bun was last year. March, to be exact, when I attended the Tourism Australia luncheon. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it at first–it looked…anemic. Where was my golden crust? Why did it look under-baked? Why would I want to consume that? There was something wrong with it, for sure. But as everyone else dug in, I knew I’d look like a fool if I begged off. I had to try it.
I am so glad I did, because what a world that was opened up to me that day! Wow! Since then, I’ve had pork buns when I’ve come across them, but the opportunities have been few and far between. I don’t know of anywhere I go locally that I can get them. And my trips to NYC aren’t as frequent as I’d like.
So, when it was proposed that we make steamed buns for #FirstOnTheFirst, I was cautiously elated. Thrilled that I’d have a chance to make my own at home. Terrified that I’d be making my own at home. What business did I have embarking upon a culinary journey like this? I knew nothing about steamed buns. But I had to try.
Steamed buns are also known as bao. My favorite fillings I’ve found have been on the porky side–including these bacon buns–but they can also contain sweet bean paste, chicken, etc. Typically they are steamed in bamboo baskets, but I already have enough specialized kitchen equipment; I wasn’t buying more. I can tell you this–the steamer basket on your rice cooker is not the best option. Go with a steamer basket in a regular pot with a little water and cover–this works remarkably well and is quick, too. Leftover bao can be refrigerated for 3-4 days or frozen for longer. You can re-steam them to freshen them up, or pop them in the microwave for 20-30 seconds, making them a fantastic option for work lunches. Or breakfast. Whichever.
They do take some time, though. The dough needs to rise for 2 hours. And you can only steam so many at a time (in my case, 4). All told, it was about 3 hours from start to finish, and that was on a work night. I was tired at the end, but extremely proud of myself. And a bit addicted. It probably wasn’t a great idea to eat 1.5 steamed bacon buns and then start my exercise for the night. Oops. Next time I’ll stash them for the week following and spread the love out a bit.
Want to check out some more steamed buns? You know you do!
Now… for my version. I discovered the cutest tutorial ever on my name is yeh and I couldn’t resist! Truly–you must check it out! The bacon caught my attention, that’s true, but those adorable little buns smiling and snoozing won my heart. I had to try her recipe–or, at least, a riff off of it. I’m so glad I was enticed by her cute little buns, for this is now a keeper! Some sweet heat balanced by soft pillows of dough and bacon, of course. This might be the best food ever. You owe it to yourself to try them!
Next month, we’ll be making Beef Wellington. I really need my head examined. If you’d like to participate in the insanity, check out the First on the First tab for details. We’d love to have you!
- 2¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
- ¾ cup warm water
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup warm whole milk
- ¼ cup Spectrum organic shortening
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 12 ounces bacon, chopped, cooked, and drained
- ¾ cup water
- 3 Tablespoons honey
- 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1½ teaspoons rice vinegar
- 1½ teaspoons sesame oil
- ¾ teaspoon sriracha sauce
- ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
- Combine the dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.
- Mix on low (speed 2 on a KitchenAid) until combined and watch that the dough becomes smooth and slightly sticky--it should adhere to the bottom of the bowl while kneading. If it's too sticky, you can add flour 1 Tablespoon at a time, waiting until it's incorporated before adding any more. If the dough is too dry, you can add warm water 1 Tablespoon at a time.
- Knead for 5 minutes, then transfer to a clean bowl.
- Cover and keep in a warm, draft-free place to allow the dough to rise til doubled in size, about 2 hours. (I turn my oven on the lowest temperature for a few minutes, turn it off, leave the light on and put the bowl there.)
- During the last hour of the dough rising, combine the bacon, water, honey, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sriracha, and red pepper flakes in a medium sauce pan.
- Cook over medium heat until it starts to boil.
- Remove 3 Tablespoons of the fluid, add to it the cornstarch, and whisk til combined.
- Pour back into the bacon mixture, stir, and continue cooking until thickened. Set aside to cool.
- Cut out 12 parchment squares for the next stage...
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide into 12 equal pieces.
- Flatten 1 piece of dough into a disc, put 2-3 teaspoons bacon filling in the center, and gather the edges up in the middle, pinching to seal, so you have a little packet of meat.
- Place on a prepared baking sheet and pop in the warm oven to wait until ready to steam.
- Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling.
- Fill a large sauce pan with 2-3 inches of water, place in it the steamer basket, and place 4 parchment squares in the basket. Put buns on top of the parchment squares, cover, and cook on medium-high temperature, steaming for 10 minutes.
- Check that the exterior of the buns has hardened a bit and isn't sticky. Cook for a couple more minutes, if necessary, then transfer to wire racks.
- Repeat with remaining buns.
- Eat warm; if cooled, re-steam or microwave for 30 seconds before consuming.